Varsha Nair speaks to Yesudas, who has completed 50 years in the playback industry.
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This interview was first published by the International Business Times. Originally, it was aired on Image-in-Asian Television in Washington, DC.
By Varsha Nair
K.J. Yesudas completed 50 years of playback singing on Monday. Ever since he recorded his first song on November 14, 1961, the legendary singer has been a towering presence in Kerala and southern Indian film music industries. A seven-time winner of India's National Award for the Best Male Playback Singer, the Kochi-born Yesudas has recorded thousands of songs in several languages. During a recent visit to Washington, he spoke to Varsha Nair. Here are the excerpts:
The first song you ever recorded was Jaathibhedam mathadwesham on November 14, 1961. Could you explain how you felt during that first recording and how that has changed over the past five decades?
For that particular [movie], they confirmed another song [for me]. What happened actually was I had a slight fever on that particular day, a typhoid attack. The producer, the director and the music director, they thought on the business side. In the worldly life, everything is connected with business. They were not at all worried about the [rookie] singer, or what will happen to him. They said we will give him smaller piece of lines and send him back. That was their discussion inside, and later on I knew it. That particular song, which they [wanted] to give me, was not the type of songs good for me to start [my career]. God blessed me. Even with the fever, God helped me. God's grace, blessings and everything is connected with God, and I believe in it. So I believe in Sambhavami yuge yuge. That's why I could sing Jaathibedham madhadwesham.
You have been awarded Padmabhushan in 2002 and before that Padmashree, apart from so many accolades. Have you stopped keeping track of what you are getting?
No, you can't expect anything. So it's Sambhavami yuge yuge. I never thought that I will be in this position, whether it is good, or bad or anything. It is not in your hands. Even the smallest atom will not move without God's power. So you have to move with the moment, that's all and I am moving. In between that, I got a lot of encouragements, discouragements and so many things are there, but we should not go back. We have to try and work hard, definitely results will be there.
Is there any particular reason that you start most of your concerts with a particular song, Idaya kanyake?
It happened like that, and not at all connected to any religious attitude or anything. In one program, I started with that song, and later it became a starting song!
Do you think that music is something that can transcend all differences?
The mind is most important thing. Everything is connected with mind -- Manasa, vaacha and karmana. Karma means what all things we do now, and vaacha is what we talk. Manas, the first important one, is very difficult to control. The great people, the legends and saints, they control their minds -- that's why they became great. We can't -- I can't. I am trying my level best. Till this age I couldn't do it. The next one is vaacha, you can control it. Keep quiet, and you control it very easily. The other one is very easy. The mind, if you clear it, then everything is clean. We do everything out of selfishness.
You recently paid a visit to the legendary music director Raghavan Master.
You know what his age now is? 98! I think he is the oldest music director now in the South. He is very healthy and remembers everything, except he couldn't walk properly. A song which I sang nearly 27 or 28 years back for him, the same song I sang for him.. I tried my level best to do it to retain the old feel. Recording-wise, the song is good. We did it properly, but it's in the hand of listeners!
Was there any particular point in your career you realized you have attained an iconic status?
No. People can say, the listeners and music lovers can say anything about me, that is their right. I [feel like] I just started to feel the ocean but never touched it. That's my feeling. Day by day, I realize that about the music, especially the Carnatic music. I am a little fanatic on [Carnatic] may be! I am trying my level best to know something about Carnatic music.
On my father's [insistence], I went to a music academy in Trivandrum to become a sangeeta vidwan. Chicken pox hit me and I was not able to finish my two-year diploma course. I had to return home after one year of attending the course. I believe the Almighty confirmed that I am not a vidwan, but a student. And I am still a student. Today I am continuing that task, which will never end.
Is there any particular reason that you wear white dress all the time?
My father was a very busy artiste. He used to wear good dresses. He was an actor and he had to. When he was sick, we couldn't manage our family. We were six children. So wearing white helped me that time. No one could say how many dresses I had. If there is [any dirt], white will show it [immediately].
Is Tharangini, your company, archiving all your songs?
We couldn't do it, but we are trying to do it. (Global India Newswire)